Posted 11 March 2010 - 02:16 PM
I finished Midas Gold yesterday and want to send my congratulations; you have clearly spent some time reflecting on your past work and the comments made by your fans on Cbn. While continuing your textbook of violence coupled to horrific, almost sadomasochist, situations, you instilled a greater sense of your character’s motives and convictions. While you have hinted at this in the past, your protagonists often ended up as little more than caricatures. Not so here.
In Midas Gold you reduced the number of major players to half a dozen and this concentrated the flow of your narrative and allowed you to refine and expand their principle thoughts. James Bond, James Suzuki, Nakamuro, Ysabella and Grazianizi came across as fully rounded people, with hopes and regrets, passions and fury, foibles and strengths. Over them all resided the ubiquitous Colonel Jackson, casting his beleaguered spell over everyone before ultimately being dragged into the web of intrigue himself, revealing himself as a man as ruthless as 007.
It is a mark of a good writer to make his major character’s stand out and you did this very well. For both Bond and his son there were physically imposing descriptions and a raft of incidental, life affirming reflections, set aside from the main-stay of the action, which highlighted their carelessness, fragility and determination. You cleverly hinted at the manner in which they were both sinking the same ship, both fallen angels descending into hell: “a death watch beetle to the soul” accompanied by all those “cruel... devil’s smiles.” Chapter 8 particularly had resonance; the reasonable man sensing he has turned to evil and now begins to resemble the devil himself, not only in actions, but in thoughts and even looks. The cahpter's opening scene on board the Midnight Gold was the culmination of Bond’s own pained troubles, highlighted in a very fine Chapter 4, yet played out through his son. Wonderful.
Interestingly you also suggested the villain Nakamuro was from the same stock, his “golden eyes... like a hawk,” his history covered in chaos and destruction, a remorseless bringer of death. It was disappointing you felt the need to give him a peculiar sadistic bent; it was an unnecessary intrusion into his make up and while it served as a narrative ‘kink,’ his wickedness hardly needed reinforcing.
This trio of damaged devils were nicely counter balanced by the affable Grazianizi and the delicious Ysabella. The former was one of those minor but important characters who lend an old fashioned air of sophistication, reassurance and knowing; I was reminded of Gordienko in ‘Colonel Sun,’ another one chapter wonder. Ysabella meanwhile was a tactful, albeit sensual, foil for Bond; the lack of a central love story in Midas Gold was one of its achievements, that the sexual undercurrent was retained without needing to actually include the romance. Ysabella is falling in love with Bond; during her torture, her emotive silent pleading is doubly effective as the reader isn’t entirely sure which “James” she is thinking about; an air of confusion surrounds her. Her demise is untidy and wretched, wholly fitting for such an unfortunate ingénue.
By this point in the story, Harry, you have resorted to your more traditional goings-on. We have stake outs by villas, wince inducing torture, homosexuality - including the re-introduction of anal rape -, flash cuts to MI6 headquarters, unobtainable women and a host of vicious action scenes, which were not as fine as some earlier sequences. So, you again feature a very public fist fight, the thugs reading like a posse of Bruce Lee impersonators, and the battle with Suliman wasn’t entirely successful – it brought to mind images of the wrestling scene from ‘Borat.’ The finale was a very standard, ‘Die Hard’ inspired fare, and although you described it well, I had difficulty believing it.
On the plus side, the prelude was a marvellous piece of work. And while I too had reservations about Bond meeting Gabriella, (perhaps I should be M?) it highlighted his lack of forethought, a recurring theme in your work. The attack on Les Larmes de L’ange was a brilliant concoction. I loved it. The set up was brisk, there was a beautiful location and a fantastical cinematic premise – the glider attack. I was a little dismayed therefore, when you concentrated on the gun battle, which could have been much shorter, and failed to exploit the potential of the airborne journey. With your descriptive talents, that could have been a vertigo inducing ride, but you reduced it to little more than a paragraph or two. Having said that, the climax to the prelude was scintillating and I wanted (I still want!) to learn more about Simon Carter and Dominion.
The prelude also reinforced from the start the sense of dread and disaster which hung over the story. Everybody, with the exception of Ysabella, seemed to be possessed by a foreboding, a fear of and an acceptance of their death and descent into hell. This runs from M’s “tense and claustrophobic office” through to Bond considering a future “drinking with the devil.” While I am not over enamoured with your scenes of graphic sex and appalling violence, it better suited the horrific circus of life your characters inhabit here.
To portray this malevolent underbelly of society, you instilled much style and content into your prose and I rarely felt your words were wasted. While you still have a tendency towards colloquialism, it didn’t affect the nuance of your work and was often effective during dialogue. Occasionally your turn of phrase is almost too familiar, and I think you need to try a few more similes; those “hounds of hell” are getting tired running after so many heels! You also tend to double emphasise: you don’t need to be “a dangerous menace,” if you are a menace you are already dangerous; equally when swords collide, that’s quite hard and intense enough, you don’t need to tell us, readers can interpret what you mean.
But these are minor quibbles, points of metaphorical order, if you like. I want to congratulate you, Harry, on a splendid piece of work. Midas Gold really shows you are fulfilling your potential. I am pleased to see you want to continue writing and Royal Gambit should be another winner. You deserve the praise, Harry.
P.S. Roger, wishing you good luck with Royal Gambit and beyond.....